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MS steps up congress lobbying in run-up to trial verdict

Two million postcards shipped to the shareholders

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MS on Trial Microsoft has cranked up its "Freedom to Innovate" campaign by sending out two million copies of a letter and mail card along with its annual report. The move, which comes in the run-up to the release of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's findings of fact in the antitrust trial, can probably be seen as the commencement of Microsoft's campaign to blunt the impact of an adverse verdict. Jackson is due to deliver his preliminary conclusion on a Friday after the US markets have closed, but he won't specify which Friday. Microsoft's "Freedom to Innovate Network" won't have any effect on his verdict, but the verdict itself is only the beginning. Assuming it goes against Microsoft, there will then be a lengthy period where Jackson considers remedies, and where he's thought to be hoping Redmond will be forced to come to the conference table. There have been sporadic rumours of negotiations between Microsoft and the Department of Justice, but the stances of the adversaries are poles apart, and Microsoft is only likely to deal when the axe is poised to swing on it. But with Freedom to Innovate it's clear the company intends to try to go over the DoJ's head. If it can get a large enough groundswell lobbying their congress reps to leave Microsoft alone, and get enough people out in the country to agree, it could still escape the more serious remedies. It might even, if it can get the legislature to agree wholeheartedly with the Redmond line, get off entirely. These are however big ifs. The line as expressed in the Freedom to Innovate site is that "Congress should resist the efforts of competitors who seek unfair advantages through the political process to counter legitimate competition in the marketplace" (i.e., it's all got up by those bastards at Sun and Netscape). But Microsoft is coy about how many people have actually joined its Network. According to a Wall Street Journal source it's around 50,000, with Microsoft claiming hundreds of thousands of hits on the site. That's actually not that many, and doesn't suggest a huge level of interest. If Microsoft really does have 50,000 members, it suggests they don't tune in that frequently - and it's not clear how many of them have actually written to congress. ® Complete Register Trial coverage

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